Beliefs about feline nutrition are in constant flux. Even as cat caretakers continue to learn more about the foods that will keep their cats healthy — and veterinary research begins to deconstruct some of the sacred cows about feline feeding — new information is still always coming at us.
The latest result of this evolution is that veterinarians are starting to see that feeding cats a wet-food diet is better for their health. Here are five reasons why.
As animals who evolved in a desert environment, cats have a very low thirst drive. They’re designed to get the water they need in their food, and their food is smaller animals.
The latest research seems to indicate that wet diets, whether prescription or not, help to manage the symptoms of kidney disease. My own vet, a cat specialist, has told me the best thing I can do to manage my cat Siouxsie’s early-stage kidney disease is to make sure she gets plenty of moisture in her food, because the extra liquid helps her damaged kidneys filter more toxins out of the bloodstream.
According to veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly, there are lots of foods designed for urinary tract health, but there are no independent studies to prove that these diets actually do what they’re supposed to do. On the other hand, it makes sense that a cat who gets more moisture, and therefore urinates more, is more likely to flush crystals out of the urinary tract before they cause irritation and blockage.
According to Dr. Khuly, research seems to indicate that cats eating wet food are more active than those eating dry food, although nobody can quite understand why at this point. Another factor is that wet food is naturally much lower in carbohydrates than dry food. As obligate carnivores, cats lack the digestive enzymes to properly digest carbohydrates, so high-protein, low-carb canned foods can help your kitty regain her girlish figure.
For years, veterinarians (and cat food brands) have been trying to sell us on the idea that dry food helps get rid of plaque and tartar on your cat’s teeth. I’ve always maintained that this is like your dentist telling you that you can keep your teeth healthy by eating nothing but Doritos. Apparently, veterinary dentists are starting to get the memo, too: If you want to keep your cat’s teeth clean, brush her teeth and have dental cleanings done when your vet recommends it. (Catster’s own Dr. Eric Barchas has also debunked the dry-food-dental-benefits myth.)
The moral of the story is that wet food can make a huge difference in helping to fend off some of the most common diseases suffered by our feline friends. You don’t need to buy the super-premium $4-a-can variety, either: Even the stuff you get on sale at the grocery store could make a big difference in your cat’s health.
Have you switched your cats from dry food to wet? Did you notice a change in their health? Have you talked with your vet about wet food vs. dry food, and what kind of response did you get? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.